Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules Alcohol Law Unconstitutional


Wednesday, January 22nd 2020, 6:32 pm
By: Dana Hertneky


The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Wednesday on the state's alcohol laws. Justices said a state law designed to prevent monopolies in the industry is unconstitutional.

This was a split 5-4 decision among justices but ultimately the court ruled the state law would have changed what voters approved in the recent alcohol modernization.

When Oklahoma's alcohol modernization took effect, it allowed beer and wine to be sold in convenience and liquor stores. The law also changed the way liquor was distributed. Wholesalers were no longer required to sell to every distributor. Oklahoma's two biggest wholesalers merged with national distributors and created a situation where two companies now control most of the liquor distribution across the state.

“Which is bad for us as retailers because we have single sources to buy from as opposed to multiple sources,” Bryan Kerr, president of the Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association said. “And that unfortunately trickles down to the consumer in the form of both selection and price issues.”

Liquor stores said they started getting fewer deliveries and prices started creeping up. So, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 608, which once again mandated wholesalers sell to all distributors.

‘We saw that in essence what was happening was bill authors attempting to turn back the clock to 1959,” said John Meisch the president Institute for Responsible Alcohol Policy, a group that represents wine and spirit wholesalers.  

Those manufacturers and distributors sued the state and that's how the case ended up in front of the Supreme Court. Wednesday's decision means two distributors will continue to control most of the liquor sales in the state.

“Oklahomans need to know that a manufacturer has the right to decide what distributor to use and the court’s decision today affirms that,” said Meisch.

In the dissenting opinion justices said they believe they needed to protect the constitution as a whole, not just this one part.

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